One of the markers of a well thought-out brewpub menu is its partnership with either the onsite or local breweries. As Executive Chef of Liquid Riot, Nick Krunkkala fully explores that synergy, creating a menu that embraces and celebrates the brand’s craft brewery and distillery. In fact, every dish on his menu incorporates Liquid Riot Bottling Company’s beer and/or spirits.
His Venison Meatloaf Sliders exemplify that yin and yang. The meatloaf stars ground Maine venison, local eggs, French bread crumbs and caramelized onion and garlic, flavored with Liquid Riot Irish Goodbye Stout. Built on a pretzel slider roll, the meatloaf is topped with Gruyère, adding nuttiness and slight sharpness. The build continues with Bibb lettuce, onions caramelized with brown sugar and Liquid Riot Old Port Bourbon, and blueberry ketchup made with wild Maine blueberries, bourbon, tomato ketchup, juniper berry and balsamic vinegar.
“You get the sharpness from the cheese, sweetness from the onions and acid from the vinegar,” says Krunkkala. “The pretzel rolls are perfect drinking food, and they give a chewier texture, crisp outside and saltiness.” Customers get three 2-oz. sliders per order. “Comfort food is hot, and meatloaf is comfort food’s crown jewel,” he says. Also adding to the dish’s appeal is what Krunkkala calls “the Maine connection:” deer and blueberries. Because the sliders have been so well received, Krunkkala is looking at adding a venison sausage this fall.